Around Idaho: Economic Activity in July 2020

Information provided in these news updates is from professional sources, news releases, weekly and daily newspapers, television and other media.

Northern Idaho
North Central Idaho
Southwestern Idaho
South Central Idaho
Southeastern Idaho
Eastern Idaho

 

NORTHERN IDAHO – Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai & Shoshone Counties

Benewah County

  • The annual Paul Bunyan Days festival in St. Maries has been cancelled due to COVID-19. The four-day event is normally held around Labor Day to celebrate St. Maries’ logging community. This is the first time in the 51-year history of the festival that it has been cancelled. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press

Kootenai County

  • The Panhandle Health District approved a public mask mandate for Kootenai County. The mandate will make it a misdemeanor to be in public places without a mask in situations where social distancing is not possible. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
  • StanCraft has expanded its development plans at the Coeur d’Alene Airport to include an additional hanger. The Hayden-based company has been building facilities for the retrofitting and customization of jet interiors, with two previously planned hangers expected to come online this fall and a new third hanger now planned for 2021. Source: Journal of Business
  • Fernan Lake has been placed under a public health advisory due to a toxic algae bloom. Residents and recreators have been advised to avoid contact with the water until the algae have subsided. Source: Spokesman Review

Openings

Coeur d’Alene

  • Fern Plant Shop
  • Carl’s Jr.
  • Coeur Vitality Integrative Medicine
  • Wine House CDA
  • Haberdashery

Post Falls

  • New York Pizza Dept

Sam.Wolkenhauer@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 457-8789 ext. 4451

NORTH CENTRAL IDAHO – Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce Counties

Region

  •  North central Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 9 percent in May to 5.6 percent in June as about 2,800 people returned to their jobs. June’s improvement followed May’s improvement, which pushed the unemployment rate down from its peak of 11.3 percent in April. Despite the rebound, many north central Idaho residents remained out of work. About 1,460 people who were employed in mid-March were jobless in mid-June. June’s unemployment rate of 5.6 percent was more than double the March rate of 2.7 percent. Source: Idaho Department of Labor
  • Besides bringing a halt to youth’s school, sports and social activities, coronavirus also mostly eliminated their opportunities for internships and jobs. Nearly one of three north central Idaho residents under 25 who were employed before the coronavirus filed unemployment claims between March 15 and April 30. Many of them returned to work by mid-July, but a sizeable number remained out of work. In addition, the industries that typically hire the most teens for summer jobs — hospitality and retail — are the industries that still are struggling to recover. As a result, only an estimated 220 summer positions were offered this year compared with the 580 these industries normally added in the summer. Strapped budgets and more limited operations because of coronavirus concerns also led to less summer hiring by nonprofits and local governments. Summer jobs are the way most teens enter the labor force for the first time, preparing them for their future careers. For many college students, summer jobs play a key role in their ability to pay for college. To make matters more difficult for youth, high levels of unemployment have resulted in more adults applying for positions that youth normally fill. Source: Idaho Department of Labor

Nez Perce Tribe

  • The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration recently awarded a $107,918 CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to the Nez Perce Tribe to update economic development planning and strengthen programs to responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The investment will help the tribe boost business development and create jobs. Source: Clearwater Tribune

 Clearwater County

  • The Weippe Hilltop Museum will not open for the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns. The museum planned to unveil new displays at the beginning of its summer season. Like many nonprofits, the pandemic has reduced its ability to raise funds through ticket revenues and events. Source: Clearwater Tribune

 Idaho and Lewis Counties

  • Pacific Cabinets Inc. near Ferdinand continues to expand. It manufactures and installs cabinets for hospitals, laboratories and schools throughout the West. It started an employee stock ownership program in 2017, which over the next few years completely will transfer ownership from the founder Steve Frei to the employees. PCI currently employs about 70 people at its Ferdinand facility, another five people at its engineering office in Lewiston and 10 remote employees who work out of home offices or on job sites in markets throughout the West. In addition, the company usually employs about 30 local union carpenters at their various job sites. PCI employees include CNC machinists, skilled craftspeople, machine operators, assemblers, forklift operators, truck drivers, administrative and accounting staff, estimators, engineers and project managers. Source: Idaho County Free Press
  • The only highway linking northern and southern Idaho closed for more than two weeks after a landslide on July 3 covered 120 feet of the route in debris as much as 40 feet thick. Some of the rocks were as big as trucks. The rockslide, six miles south of Riggins took time to clear because intermittent falls of basketball-sized boulders and concerns about instability prevented action. A temporary detour was soon closed because of further signs of instability. Motorists were forced to alternate routes either through southeastern Washington and eastern Oregon via an hours-long detour or precarious mountain routes requiring high-clearance, four-wheel vehicles. In the past 30 years, several rockslides have interrupted travel through the deep river canyon Highway 95 passes through. Restaurants and stores in Riggins, White Bird and Grangeville saw a reduction in travelers during the highway blockage. Riggins residents who work in the New Meadows and McCall areas found getting to work challenging. Many Riggins residents rely on McCall for health care, retail and other services. Source: Lewiston Tribune
  • Coronavirus-caused market changes have caused a few farmers to change how they sell their products. Sheila Hasselstrom, a Winchester-area sheep rancher, began selling her products directly to local consumers after coronavirus shutdowns disrupted most of the traditional markets for her animals. Major markets for lamb meat include fine restaurants and cruise ships, which were shut down for more than two months and once they reopened are hosting fewer customers. Compounding the problem were coronavirus-caused interruptions of many meat-packing plants. The 2017 Census of Agriculture found 109 farms in north central Idaho that raised sheep and lambs. Source: Lewiston Tribune
  • Craigmont – a city of about 500 people – celebrated its 100th anniversary in late June. Just in time for the celebration, Sweets & Eats opened on Craigmont’s Main Street, selling ice cream treats, deli sandwiches and espresso. It also offers an event room that can hold up to 40 people. Source: Cottonwood Chronicle

 Latah County

  • The University of Idaho and Washington State University expect fall enrollment to be slightly lower than last fall. By mid-July, the universities were seeing indications the reductions in enrollments would be much smaller than feared. Both freshmen and returning students are expressing interest in returning. Higher enrollments than expected will help the schools cope with budget problems and will help retailers and service providers in Moscow. UI finalized plans to limit COVID-19 risks by capping classroom occupancy at 50 percent of capacity, offering courses online and requiring students, staff and faculty to wear masks. The university is upgrading 147 classrooms with video and audio equipment, increasing the total number of rooms that can deliver instruction remotely. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News
  • The University of Idaho in June released finalized plans for a mandatory furlough program to offset a 5-percent budgetary holdback announced by Gov. Brad Little in May in response to the fiscal fallout of COVID-19. All university employees must take at least eight hours of furlough during the fiscal year that began July 1. Higher-paid employees must take more. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News
  • HoodHub opened this year in downtown March. The software start-up developed the HubLink, a device that plugs into a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port and provides data to an auto shop so it can pinpoint small issues before they become expensive problems for drivers. The software is in the beta phase. A few auto shops across the country are using the technology. The primary testing shop is Moscow’s Erber Auto. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News
  • The Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport plans to use a $780,000 federal grant to provide a revenue guarantee for an air carrier to start offering flights to Denver. The airport currently offers flights to Seattle via Alaska Airlines, but it does not offer flights east. Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News
  •  The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded University of Idaho researchers a $10 million grant to make manure more profitable. The five-year grant supports research into converting manure into a more easily transported fertilizer. University researchers also will investigate business opportunities for such products. The study will also fund the development and marketing of biodegradable plastics made from manure. If successful, the inventions would give Idaho dairy farmers another source of income. In 25 years, Idaho grew from the 11th largest milk-producing state to the third. Source: Capital Press; Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Nez Perce and Asotin Counties

  • Supply-chain issues have caused a delay in the opening of Lewis-Clark State College’s new career and technical education center from August to January. The Idaho Division of Public Works accepted the contractor’s request for an extension. “Supply chain delays resulting from the pandemic have proved insurmountable,” said LCSC President Cynthia Pemberton in a news release. “The building will not be substantially complete and will not be ready for classes by the start of school in August. Because of this, while we are still anticipating our ribbon cutting event in late October, we will plan to officially move into the building between Thanksgiving and January and launch its full occupancy and use with the spring 2021 semester.” The Schweitzer Career and Technical Education Center was originally supposed to open at the same time as the new Lewiston High School and the district’s A. Neil DeAtley Career Technical Education Center located nearby, which are both still set to open this fall.  Source: Lewiston Tribune
  • The region’s growing wine industry added a new member in June. The Hewett family who have ranched for generations along the confluence of the Potlatch and Clearwater rivers recently unveiled a new product under development for a few years. Ron Hewett Sr. and his sons, Ron Hewett Jr. and Reece Hewett, opened a tasting room for their Rivaura Estate Vineyards & Winery. The new winery joins 10 others within the boundaries of the Lewis-Clark Valley American Viticultural Area, established in 2016. Source: Lewiston Tribune
  • Smart Foodservice Warehouse Store plans to build a 20,000-square-foot store across the street from Walmart on Port Drive in Clarkston. Part of a 70-plus chain, the retail outlet will provide food in bulk quantities for independent restaurants and caterers and will offer silverware, dishes and pots. The Clarkston store will hire 20 people when it opens in early 2021. Source: Lewiston Tribune
  • SkyWest restored a second daily Lewiston-Salt Lake City flight July 3 after passenger numbers on the route rose in June. The number of passengers boarding the Salt Lake flight at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport fell to 113 in April. That fall prompted SkyWest to limit its service to a single inbound and outbound flight that was only running five days a week in May but was restored to seven days a week in June. Boardings grew to 287 in May and then to 621 in June. That was still far below pre-coronavirus levels, which were around 3,000. Source: Lewiston Tribune
  • The newly rebuilt taxiway at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport was completed July 17. Before the rebuild began in March, the Federal Aviation Administration rated the 34-year-old runway poor because of large cracks and holes. Now the runway is 250 feet shorter, to eliminate an overlap of its safety zone with the safety zone of the airport’s primary runway. The rebuilt runway is used by the majority of airport traffic, including cargo carriers for UPS and FedEx, private charters and crop dusters. SkyWest, the only commercial passenger airline serving Lewiston, lands on the primary runway. Source: Lewiston Tribune
  • The Clarkston branch of Walla Walla Community College will begin offering an associate degree in agricultural business this fall. The new degree option resulted from conversations with local industry representatives who expressed a need for the program. Classes for the fall quarter are scheduled to begin Sept. 21. Source: Lewiston Tribune
  • The Clarkston School Board eliminated almost two dozen positions June 22, when it approved the budget for the 2020-21 school year. These include teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals and custodians. The cuts expected to save about $1.7 million, offsetting a projected 18 percent increase to the district’s liability insurance rates, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, a projected decline in enrollment numbers and a reduction in the district’s “hold harmless” money it receives from the state of Washington. The school board also approved a pay freeze and a 5 percent pay cut for the superintendent. Source: Lewiston Tribune

Kathryn.Tacke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 799-5000 ext. 3984

SOUTHWESTERN IDAHO – Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley & Washington Counties 

Ada County

  • Boise Mayor Lauren McLean invoked a public health emergency order on July 2 as COVID-19 cases escalated in Boise. The mayor mandated mask wearing indoors or outdoors when spatial distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained. The misdemeanor violation carries a fine of $1,000 or up to six months in jail, or both. According to the mayor, the intent is to educate, not punish. The Central District Health board mandated wearing masks in public throughout Ada County started July 14. Source: Idaho Statesman
  • Roaring Springs is mandating masks be worn by all customers age 2 and above entering the park or in lines for food, restrooms or in the gift shop. Disposable masks will be sold for $1 at the entrance. Temperatures will be taken upon entrance to the park and if over 100.3, entrance is denied. The masks cannot be worn on the rides or in the water. Source: Idaho Statesman
  • The Boise City Council supported Mayor Lauren McLean’s proposal to freeze property tax rates due to the hardships experienced by those losing jobs or business to COVID-19 restrictions. Boise City coffers will be an estimated $3.2 million lighter this year because of the tax freeze. Source: Idaho Statesman
  • The city of Boise announced an offer to purchase 325 acres from Highland Livestock and Land, part of the Little family holdings. Funding is from the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, organized to acquire private acres in the Treasure Valley for preservation of clean water and open space. The offered amount was $1.2 million or approximately $3,700 an acre. Once accepted, the acreage will join the Ridge to River trail system and habitat providing preservation for perpetuity. The landowners have allowed a public easement for the same purpose, but this transaction removes any future changes. Source: Idaho Press
  • Delsa’s Ice Cream Shop and Capri Restaurant have been serving up ice cream or diner-style meals in cross town locations in Boise for almost 130 years cumulatively. Meridian diners will gain access to these menus in a combined setting come fall. The restauranteur and owner of both eateries is in the construction phase of the building featuring an expansive patio for distancing while socializing during a pandemic. Breakfast and lunch will feature the Capri menu renown in Boise while afternoons and evenings consist of scooping ice cream from 300 flavors while offering lunch and dinner fare. Source: Idaho Statesman
  • Western Governors University plans to eventually open an office in Boise but due to COVID-19, it will staff virtually. There are more than 2,000 students enrolled in Idaho with WGU, while another 3,200 have already attained bachelor’s or master’s degrees. A strategic partnerships manager will relocate to Boise once the COVID-19 pandemic allows but is already making connections virtually and by phone within the Treasure Valley to collaborate and develop partnerships between students, employers, legislators and the communities of Idaho. WGU has already joined industry groups and chambers of commerce across southern and eastern Idaho. It was founded by 17 state governors in 1997, is based out of Salt Lake City and has experienced 20 percent growth in Idaho since 2019. Source: Idaho Business Review
  • Boise State University announced it will sell beer and hard seltzers at Albertson’s Stadium during the BSU Bronco football games. This policy change comes on the heels of a Garth Brooks concert last summer that sold adult beverages. The beverage policy may be overshadowed by whether football will take place this fall. The first game is scheduled for Sept. 5 against Georgia Southern University, but it is unclear whether the game will go on as normal. Potential alternatives include reducing the number of fans allowed in the stadium or not allowing any fans at all and make the game available through TV or streaming options. BSU leadership has not made any announcements yet. Source: Boise Weekly

Adams County

  • A rockslide on July 3 severed Idaho’s main north-south artery. Highway 95 remained closed for two weeks, reducing the number of people traveling through New Meadows. Source: McCall Star-News

Canyon County

  • The Parma Motor-Vu continues to draw movie goers from all over the Treasure Valley to its drive-in movie offerings. The COVID-19 crisis has created an entertainment void in activities that allow for social distancing. The movies are older and/or classics– usually double features. The movie studios are holding new releases until ‘hard tops’ or indoor auditorium theatres open up for greater revenue generation. The Parma drive-in will be open into October. Source: Argus Observer
  • Amalgamated Sugar donated half a million dollars to the University of Idaho’s Research and Extension Center in Parma. Amalgamated Sugar is the second-largest sugar beet processor nationally and depends on cutting edge research from Idaho’s land grant university. The U of I College of Agriculture and Science has a $7 million expansion in the works with $3 million required from private industry. With this most recent donation, the center has realized 80 percent of its private donation goal. Source: Capital Press

Elmore County

  • The city council and mayor of Mountain Home voted to cancel its fireworks show less than a week before the event. Concerns by Central District Health regarding the COVID-19 trends in Mountain Home and the Treasure Valley, and with the cancellation of fireworks in the surrounding communities, a bigger crowd was expected. The mounting COVID-fatigue which lessens people’s guard also led to the decision. Plans going forward are to use half the fireworks at an event to honor first responders later in the year. Funding is collected over the course of a year by the Streetwalkers, an ad-hoc community group. With COVID-19 restrictions, this group will not likely solicit donations from households in the near future. Therefore, the other half of fireworks monies will be saved for 2021. Source: Mountain Home News
  • Elmore County Commissioners enacted a ban on burning within the county in effect until Oct. 1. The ban does not apply to Idaho Power campgrounds or federal and state public land. Source: Mountain Home News
  • The Mountain Home Arts Council announced its summer concert series in the park will continue as planned with social distancing, and the outdoor venue will meet COVID-19 precaution requirements. Source: Mountain Home News

Gem County

  • Emmett continued with its full-day tradition of Cruise Night sponsored by the Emmett Lion’s Club. The car show had more than 250 entries which registered online to eliminate a large gathering at the registration table. Classic cars on display were then distanced 8 feet apart for COVID-19 safety precautions. Evening events included the 208 Arm Drop drag races and closed cruise for pre-1979 cars, followed by a showing of American Graffiti at the Mill complex provided by Frontier Cinema owner’s portable projector. The drive-in movie will be an ongoing entertainment option in Emmett this summer. Revenues are distributed by the Lion’s Club to fund community events. Source: Emmett Messenger

Valley County

  • The expansion at St. Luke’s McCall is running $18 million over budget — about 43 percent of the original $42 million estimate. The next phase of construction cannot begin until the hospital system brings the costs down or finds additional funding. The hospital wants to make sure budget cuts will not reduce the scope of the services designed to help the hospital deal with growth. St. Luke’s Health System originally based its cost estimates on what it paid for construction projects in the Treasure Valley. Construction tends to be more expensive in McCall because of the lack of affordable worker housing and disruptions caused by winter weather. The cost overruns are not expected to delay completion of the project more than six months. Construction began in 2018 with utility and road improvements. Last summer, work began on the expansion, which will more than double the space available in the current hospital. Source: McCall Star-News
  • Maverik proposes to build a convenience store twice as large as the one at its current location in downtown McCall. The new 4,425-square-foot store at the Rustic Inn spot along Idaho 55 will sit among 28 gas pumps. Its current store has 12 pumps. Maverik hopes to open the new store by next summer. Source: McCall Star News

 Washington County

  • Midvale Marketplace, a newly formed nonprofit, started a community garden this summer allowing a 15’ x 15’ plot for each interested gardener. Source: Weiser Signal American
  • Weiser’s Farmer’s Market held its first event mid-July with more than 20 vendors. The event is held each Thursday evening through mid-September. The market is organized by the Weiser River Resource Council and is in its ninth year. Source: Weiser Signal American
  • Intrinsic Organics in Weiser is the first manufacturer capable of producing USDA-approved organic inulin in industrial quantities from Jerusalem artichoke. Global demand has been on the rise for inulin fiber. Food manufacturers — including makers of yogurt, ice cream, salad dressings, cereals and beverages — use it to add dietary fiber and texture, as well as reduce sugar, fat and calories. The company’s plant, built in 2017, employs about 20 people. It processes artichokes grown on more than 500 acres on some organic farms near Weiser. Source: The Argus Observer; Weiser Signal American
  •  A cold snap in late April destroyed most of the sweet cherry crop in the Weiser area. A lack of fruit caused Brooke Orchards to cancel its popular fruit stand and U-pick cherries. Source: Weiser Signal American
  • The Weiser School District is tightening its belt because of a 5 percent holdback in state funding. State funding provides about 90 percent of the district’s general fund. Source: Weiser Signal American
  • A $50,000 Gem Grant will finance a new water line at a private RV park under construction along the Snake River in Weiser and allow the city to increase its water system capacity on the west side of town. The Snake River Economic Development Alliance applied for the Gem Grant on behalf of the city of Weiser. Source: Weiser Signal American

 Postponements and Cancellations

  • Organizers of Treefort released a new schedule after postponing the event from March to September of this year due to the pandemic. With COVID-19 cases escalating in the Boise metro, the organization realized the event could not safely provide music and entertainment to the quality level of the previous eight years and rescheduled the ninth annual event for September 2021 and its tenth Treefort event six months later in March 2022 to get it back on its original annual schedule. The spinoff events such as Alefort, Foodfort, Filmfort and Yogafort will continue to be part of the program. Those who purchased tickets for the 2020 event will be offered refunds or other options. Details will be announced later. Source: Idaho Press
  • Caldwell Night Rodeo held off canceling until the last moment hoping to find an alternative that would allow for social distancing and the requisite crowd base to make it profitable Source: Idaho Press
  • Due to COVID-19 distancing needs, Nampa’s Idaho Center canceled concerts such as Chris Stapleton, the Backstreet Boys, the Doobie Brothers, Cher and Miranda Lambert. It also canceled the Jurassic World Live Tour and the Monster Jam. A popular rodeo, the Snake River Stampede, which typically draws 60,000 spectators over five nights also went by the wayside. The event center saw record attendance the last couple of years reporting its first two years of profitability. Source: Idaho Press
  • The Eagle Fun Days Fireworks show at Eagle Island State Park was canceled this year due to COVID-19 concerns. Next year, the city will celebrate its 50th anniversary and plans are to make it bigger and better than ever. Source: Idaho Press

Ground Breakings and Ribbon Cuttings

  • Hayes Company Boutique opened its women’s clothing shop in downtown Boise, moving from its online platform started in 2018. It is expanding into baby and children’s wear. Source: http://www.hayescompanyboutique.com
  • PETIQ, the publicly traded pet wellness company, broke ground on a three-story, 55,000 -square-foot building in Eagle to house 300 employees. According to Dunn and Bradstreet, the company’s annual revenue is $133 million. The general contractor is ESI of Meridian. Source: Idaho Business Review
  • Family Fun Zone hosted a ribbon cutting in June as it opened to the greater Mountain Home community. It is owned and operated locally offering laser tag, a video arcade, a virtual interactive center and a study area for kids after school, along with an area for family birthday parties. Source: KTVB 7 News
  • The Flying Pie Pizzeria chain opened its sixth location in Idaho called the Overland Bistro. The chain is renowned for its habanero pie with varying levels of heat. The new location is similar in theme to the bistro restaurant on Broadway. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the restaurant is only offering take-out and delivery options for now. Locations include one in Nampa, one in Meridian and four in Boise. Source: Idaho Statesman

Closures

    • Regal Beaver, a recently opened music venue in downtown Boise has closed. Source: Idaho Statesman
    • Idaho Camera plans to close its two retail stores. The company has been in business for almost 75 years. Source: Idaho Statesman
    • Skippers Skippers Seafood and Chowder House restaurant has closed. It is selling the franchise and operations but not the real estate, according to its Facebook page, the restaurant has served the Treasure Valley for decades. Source: Facebook

Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 735-2500 ext. 3639

SOUTH CENTRAL IDAHO – Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties

Regional School Plans for Academic Year 2020

  • Jerome announced plans to offer an online learning option for its students. The students are locked into their selection for the full semester since the district is providing a dedicated certified teacher, a weekly communique and setting up standardized testing. The middle and high school classes will be offered through Idaho Digital Learning Academy and classes must meet high school requirements with grades recorded on transcripts. The student must have a learning space in the home, supplies and tools for each class and reliable internet service to stream the lessons. If the student does not have a laptop or Chromebook, the school district will check one out to the student. School officials hope the option to stay home and learn will alleviate some classroom overcrowding.
  • The Cassia County Joint School District is implementing an accredited K-12 online program — the Mini-Cassia Online Learning Academy — that is open to all students. The district expects some of the homeschooled children to take advantage of this new offering that uses an Edmentum platform and hires certified teachers and coordinators to work with students, ensuring both comprehension and completion of studies. Others interested in this option include those parents concerned with traditional classroom learning during a pandemic. Students from outside the district can enroll. The district will receive state funding for each student ensuring continuation without additional fees or tuition. Elementary students will have access to hard copies of assignments if internet access is a barrier. Chromebooks can be checked to students without a computer.
  • The College of Southern Idaho is reopening its campus classrooms, dorms, the student recreation center, food-service-to-go, the planetarium and museum for the 2020 fall term. CSI will offer choices to its students including the traditional classroom, but also online learning or a hybrid option. Athletics is still up in the air as many student athletes come from other countries who are not allowed a student visa due to COVID-19 restrictions. The attendance is down about five percent from last fall with registration still ongoing.
  • Twin Falls School District has about 9,600 students. Of the 4,000 parents who responded to a survey regarding sending their children back to school in the fall, 76 percent indicated they want their children to resume traditional classroom school. The school district plans to offer traditional classroom learning while offering Virtual Schoolhouse for those who do not feel comfortable returning to the physical space. The virtual program for K-8 from Venture Upward is designed for the full academic year offering the curriculum, resources, tools, teaching and mentoring. The district’s first day of school is set for Aug. 19. The district’s Healthy Education and Learning Task Force (HEAL) released its plan for reopening with policies and processes for cleaning and distancing and training based on differing levels of COVID-19 spread. The four levels of operation are color coded and tied to the COVID-19 outbreak levels at the time:
      • Green indicates no community spread and offers an in-person school schedule with restrictions to promote social distancing and sanitation protocols.
      • Yellow indicates minimal community spread and further restrictions are enforced.
      • Orange is followed when there is moderate community spread and is considered a hybrid schedule with students split into groups and alternating between online and classroom instruction to reduce density.
      • Red is when there is substantial community spread and the schools are shut down, as happened this spring, with remote learning provided to all students. Extracurricular activities are canceled at this level.

Masks will be provided and in certain classes, will be required or highly recommended. The communication process between families and the schools when a student or teacher has COVID-19 is being addressed, as is other issues specific to a class or activity.

Source: Times-News

Blaine County

  • Most of the cities in Blaine County are requiring masks in public if social distancing is not viable, including Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue and Sun Valley. Carey is the lone holdout from the mandate. The earliest cases of COVID-19 appeared in Blaine County early in its spread across the U.S. with a large number of cases compared with its smaller population base. Blaine County’s shutdown response was quick and has kept new cases at bay. The peak in Blaine County was the week of 4/4/2020 when almost 300 cases were reported, slightly higher than Ada County during the same time. The incident rate of 2,415 per 100,000 population continues to rank highest statewide, due to Blaine County’s small population of approximately 23,000. Mid-July, the total cases cumulative in the county was estimated at 2,458 with the state at more than 19,000, though the numbers change daily. For the most recent information, see www.coronavirus.idaho.gov Source: Idaho Mountain Express and www.coronavirus.idaho.gov
  • Ketchum Arts Festival took place as usual this July because it is located outdoors at Festival Meadows on Sun Valley Road. Its venue allowed sufficient room for people to distance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was free and had more than 100 artists set up shop and share their creations while wearing masks. Source: Idaho Mountain Express
  • Blaine County’s Big Wood River, which also runs through Gooding and Camas Counties, is at less than half its normal level due to lower snowpack. This is a threat to agricultural entities who depend on surface irrigation, but it can also impact the Wood River Aquifer if irrigation pumping accelerates to compensate for the reduced canal water. Alfalfa producers anticipate less than four cuttings this year with the possibility they may not get a second and third cutting. The pockets of precipitation across Idaho in June were not sufficient in Blaine County to compensate for the reduced snowpack. Source: Idaho Mountain Express
  • Hailey’s Farmers Market opened in a new location and a little later in the summer due to COVID-19 planning. The new location offers more parking and visibility to the public. The set-up will ensure there is distancing between shoppers while hand sanitation stations are set up throughout the market. Masks are required. Source: Idaho Mountain Express

 Jerome County

  • Commissioners voted to expand the county jail from 135 beds to 195. The extra beds are a revenue generator since demand for federal and state inmate housing is high and the reimbursement rates to Jerome County are higher, providing a steady revenue stream. The sheriff noted that on average, Jerome inmates fill only 50-60 beds with the jail still typically full. Jerome County built this combined jail and sheriff’s office in 2016 because of overcrowding issues. Source: Times-News
  • The Jerome Chamber of Commerce hosted its first State of the County event with county commissioners sharing success stories. Leadership commented on the strength of Jerome’s economy. It was also noted there had not been a single business closure through the COVID-19 downturn, the jail was expanding, and new companies are looking at the area for potential relocation. Source: KMVT News

Twin Falls

  • Delta Airlines will resume its three daily flights to Salt Lake City. The airline contracts with Sky West for the shorter connecter flights that link Twin Falls with Delta’s regional hub of flights. Flights were reduced during the original months of the pandemic, but more travelers are returning to air travel since airlines are ensuring fewer travelers on each flight. Source: Times-News
  • The Early Childhood Education Learning Center on campus at the College of Southern Idaho will open for the fall academic semester. It offers daycare for children of students and CSI educators. There are openings for more than 50 CSI students to work and learn about early childhood development. CSI offers $800 – $1,000 scholarships per child every semester to parents in need of assistance. So far, applications for this scholarship are down according to CSI. Source: KMVT News
  • South Central District Health board voted against a mask mandate for the region. The board is comprised of county commissioners and one medical doctor who provides subject matter expertise and advice. Source: Times-News and South Central District Health website
  • Twin Falls City Library reopened after the COVID-19 shutdown with limited hours and no seating available due to sanitizing difficulties. The library staff will provide home delivery services to those unable to come to the library personally. Computers are once again available for public use. Source: KMVT News

Preparing to BASE jump from the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls. Photo courtesy of Livability Media

  • The Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce is continuing to up its game, marketing its quality of place to the nation through a page on Livability Media’s website. The current COVID-19 environment has created challenges for certain pockets of the country. Livability Media discerns those interested in attributes of Twin Falls – -ample outdoor recreation, jobs that pay a ‘living’ wage and less density. The company has been working with the Twin Falls Chamber for nearly 16 years. The article with photos of the area can be found at https://www.livabilitymedia.com/cities-unexpected-stories

Event Cancellations and Postponements

  • Magic Valley Beer Festival organized by the Blue Lakes Rotary Club and originally scheduled for Aug. 1 has been canceled due to risks associated with COVID-19 transmission. It has been an ongoing event for the past nine years with packed crowds at the Twin Falls City Park offering music and booths representing various Idaho breweries. The club is considering a virtual event. Source: KMVT News
  • Ketchum’s Trailing of the Sheep in October is canceled this year due to COVID-19 distancing that precludes large crowds. This festival brings in an estimated $4.5 million to the local economy according to the executive director, Laura Musbach Drake. The event typically draws thousands to watch working dog demonstrations, participate in cooking classes, experience dancers from various ethnic groups and sample lamb dishes at local restaurants. The restaurants typically create new menus specific for the weekend event. Plans are to heighten the festival next year as it celebrates its 25th The bands of sheep must still move from the mountain ranges to winter grazing locations, allowing chance observations of these drives, but without the fanfare. Source: Boise State Public Radio
  • Magic Valley Folk Festival was canceled due to the inability of international dance groups to obtain travel visas because of COVID-19 restrictions. The festival has been held in Burley for the past 15 years with Mini-Cassia families opening their homes to the traveling dance groups. There were five countries represented last year. The hope is the event will resume when COVID-19 travel restrictions are no longer necessary. Source: Times-News
  • The Magic Valley Art in the Park Festival, scheduled for July 28-31, was canceled after 61 consecutive years. The accompanying Children’s Art in the Park activities was moved to a virtual event. Source: Times-News
  • The Allen Conference was canceled earlier in the year. It would have been the New York investment firm’s 38th conference in Sun Valley. It is frequently referred to as the billionaire’s summer camp, with leading politicians, media moguls and corporate leaders attending the week of panels and outdoor recreation. Source: Idaho Mountain Express

Openings

    • Minidoka Memorial Hospital held an open house for its newly constructed surgical clinic in Rupert. Source: KMVT News
    • Human Bean opened after completing new construction in Twin Falls. Source: Times-News
    • Java Express opened its second location in Twin Falls. It offers drive-through espresso and drinks. Source: Times-News
    • The Shake-Out reopened after closing two years ago. It has renovated its fast food restaurant that has a long history in Twin Falls. Source: Times-News

Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 735-2500 ext. 3639

SOUTHEASTERN IDAHO – Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida & Power counties 

 Region

  • The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes officially announced on Tuesday the cancellation of the 57th Annual Shoshone-Bannock Indian Festival in August due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tribes’ annual event is the largest outdoor festival and pow-wow in Idaho. Source: Idaho State Journal
  • A very limited 2020 Eastern Idaho State Fair has received approval from the fair board, the city of Blackfoot, and the Southeastern Idaho Public Health Director. Following their most recent meeting, the fair board decided to go forward with even more limitations — no carnival, no concerts, limited vendors and limited events. Basically, this year’s fair will go back more to its earliest roots, amounting to 4-H livestock events, the rodeo and some food vendors. The Eastern Idaho State Fair is a 16-county fair district. It is eastern Idaho’s longest running and largest community event. Source: Post Register

Bannock County

  • A recent Business Insider report ranked both Pocatello and Idaho Falls among the top five Western U.S. cities in which to live following the COVID-19 pandemic. Pocatello finished third, behind Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Logan, Utah. Idaho Falls placed fourth, just ahead of Corvallis, Oregon. The report, published on July 5, lauded Pocatello for its short work commutes and a cost of living 12.4 percent below the national average. Idaho Falls scored points for its low unemployment rate just before the pandemic struck and for the affordability of its housing, which averaged $867 per month. Source: Idaho State Journal
  • The School District 25 Board of Trustees have decided to require all students, teachers, visitors and other personnel to wear face masks while at the district’s schools. In addition, School District 25 plans for its students and teachers to physically return to school classrooms this school year due to a shared conviction that in-person learning at the district’s schools will be more effective than remote learning over the internet. Classes resume on Aug. 24. Source: Idaho State Journal
  • C-A-L Ranch at the Pine Ridge Mall in Chubbuck has seen a surge in the sales of firearms and high demand for ammunition in recent months. Gun sales are rising following partly what is a typical trend for most election years. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic is spurring people to buy more firearms. About 30 percent of visitors are first time buyers and say COVID-19 played a key role in their decisions to buy firearms. Many first-time buyers are getting firearms for home protection. In addition, more people are staying closer to home and going camping and hunting, since flying can present a risk of COVID-19. Source: Idaho State Journal
  • A streamlined process has been implemented in Pocatello to allow bars, restaurants and brewpubs located in the Downtown Business Improvement District to expand their outdoor seating capacities and serve alcohol from those locations. This new process to allow alcohol consumption on the sidewalks and parking spaces of businesses in the downtown area is something that downtown associations across the country are looking to implement,. In future years, the plan is to allow for outdoor seating on sidewalks and in parking spaces between April 1 and Oct. 31 and will not be allowed during the winter months to allow for the necessary snow removal from city streets and sidewalks. Source: Idaho State Journal
  • The Pocatello City Council approved $50,000 toward a new collaboration with the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust aimed at improving the Portneuf River. The new partnership is one of many recent examples of the city’s strides toward implementing the short-term priorities of its Portneuf River Vision Study. The council approved an additional $250,000 to draft plans for a new amphitheater along the river in Centennial Park, with large boulders and a grassy sitting area, and a wetland across the river. The wetland would be located in a current baseball field next to the Pocatello Community Charter School. The city recently released a new rendering of the planned amphitheater and wetland. A cost estimate will be available once the designs are completed, and the city intends to solicit donations for the project throughout the next two years. Source: Idaho State Journal
  • Plans to turn the former Hoku site into an industrial park are taking shape. The new owners announced that they already have a tenant – a technology company that will be leasing the 45,000-square-foot administration building on site. The company is going to bring in about 80 new jobs to manufacture electronic components. The company already leasing at Hoku has about 10 people working on-site. Source: KPVI
  • Bannock Development Corp. is replacing John Regetz as its president and CEO and has chosen local Realtor and former City Councilman Jim Johnston to fill the position on an interim basis. The organization’s chairwoman, Amy Rhoads, confirmed that a search committee will soon be formed to find a permanent replacement for Regetz. Source: Idaho State Journal

Bear Lake County

  • Bear Lake Memorial Hospital is in construction mode. The hospital is consolidating the emergency room and radiology area and expanding the east side section of the building to create more emergency rooms and room for a new MRI. This construction phase is estimated to cost around $5 million and is expected to be completed in 16 to 18 months. Source: The News Examiner

Bingham County

  • High-tech manufacturer, Premier Technology, is adding several new jobs at its local plant despite the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The company added 10 jobs throughout the past couple of weeks and plans to hire 35 additional workers during the next month or two. Premier currently employs about 350 workers. New positions will be added “across the board,” including quality inspectors, project managers, engineers, designers, machinists and fabricators. Source: Bingham News Chronicle
  • Bingham County Planning and Zoning Commission in late June approved plans for three new subdivisions – Greenfield, Happy Acres and Deer Meadows II. Source: Bingham News Chronicle

Caribou County

  • Itafos Conda will reduce the scope of its yearly downtime for maintenance and inspection because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual July “plant turnaround” will be cut back to 10 days and will focus on the inspection, testing and preventative maintenance of critical equipment. A full-scope plant turnaround would bring hundreds of contractors and specialists to Soda Springs and surrounding communities, many coming from areas of the U.S. with significant spikes of COVID-19 cases. By reducing the scope, most of the work can be done by Itafos Conda employees and local contractors. Because Itafos mines and produces fertilizer for agriculture, it is defined as an essential business in Idaho. Its mining operations along Dry Ridge in the Caribou Range and its phosphate plant in Conda, three miles north of Soda Springs, have stayed in continuous production throughout the pandemic emergency. Along with Monsanto, it is a major employer in Caribou County. The company is currently in the permitting process for expanding its mining operations along Dry Ridge, just west of the Wyoming border. It also owns the rights to significant reserves in the Paris Hills, west of Bear Lake. Source: Idaho Business Review
  • Three Idaho mining companies and Western States Caterpillar have made a combined $12,000 donation in support of a dairy industry program that makes butter and cheese for area food banks from surplus milk. Itafos Conda in Soda Springs, Integra Resources in Owyhee County, Midas Gold Idaho in Donnelly and Western States Caterpillar, contributed to Dairy West’s Curds + Kindness program. They have dubbed their donation “Mining & Milking.” The Dairy West initiative started in June, purchasing raw milk that would otherwise go to waste due to lost demand amid the COVID-19 crisis. The program identifies processing plants with the capacity to make it into butter and cheese and then buys the production to donate to Idaho food banks. Dairy West has estimated the program has put nearly 200,000 gallons of milk that would otherwise have been dumped to good use, helping people in need in the process. Source: East Idaho News

Franklin County

  • That Famous Preston Night Rodeo was canceled for 2020. Part of the health department’s requirements were to cancel the carnival, sidewalk sale parade and hamburger stands, as well as limit ticket sales to 35 percent of capacity and develop a social distancing plan. The rodeo committee determined that by only being able to sell a third of tickets, they would not to be able to generate enough income to cover the costs of putting on a rodeo. The 85th annual event was scheduled for July 30, 31 and Aug. 1. Source: Preston Citizen

Opening

  • The Caramel Apple Cottage in Pocatello

Closures

  • Lillian Vallely School in Blackfoot

Esther.Eke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 236-6710 ext. 4331

EASTERN IDAHO – Bonneville, Butte, Caribou, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison, & Teton counties

 Region

  • The number of visitors to Yellowstone National Park in June 2020 dropped sharply from the same time in 2019, part of a general trend of people traveling less in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, although visitation did pick back up in late June. In June 2020, 534,155 people visited the park, which is down 32 percent from June 2019, according to a news release from the park. However, traffic counts ranged from 90 percent to 116 percent of 2019 levels over the last 10 days of June. Yellowstone was closed due to coronavirus on March 24. Two Wyoming entrances were reopened on May 18 and three Montana entrances on June 1. So far, 667,290 people have visited Yellowstone, down 49 percent from last year. Source: Post Register
  • A summer camp designed as a crash course for high school students interested in cybersecurity moved to a fully digital classroom this year. The fourth annual Cybercore summer camp, sponsored by Idaho National Laboratory and the College of Eastern Idaho, started July 20 and ran each weekday through July 31. This year, the camp expanded beyond high school students to include college students and some teachers who are looking to start teaching cybersecurity lessons into their own classes. Last year’s entry-level version of the Cybercore camp had 19 students take part during the first week; about 36 people had enrolled in this year’s version of the class from across Idaho. Source: Post Register
  • East Central Idaho Planning and Development, Inc. will use a $2.2 million Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security grant to keep the region’s “highly rural economy” running by providing loan funds to businesses in its nine counties — Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Teton. U.S. Secretary of Commerce announced the Department’s Economic Development Administration awarded $10.9 million in CARES Act Recovery Assistance grants in Idaho. The remaining funds will go to the following: The Twin Falls-based Region IV Development Association was awarded $3.2 million in EDA CARES funds. The Panhandle Area Council Inc., in Hayden will receive $3.1 million. Pocatello’s Southeast Idaho Council of Governments was awarded $1.2 million. The Clearwater Economic Development Association in Lewiston will receive $1 million in assistance. Source: Rexburg Standard Journal

Bonneville County

  • After nearly a year of construction, Costco in Idaho Falls is set to officially open Aug. 14 with a ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration. The new store is expected to bring more than 100 jobs to the area with salaries starting at $15/hour. Positions will include full medical and dental benefits. Earlier this month, Costco’s website indicated it was hiring for positions in 34 areas, including bakers, cashiers, forklift drivers and tire sales assistants. So far, Costco has received more than 4,000 applications for positions. Source: East Idaho News
  • A new report on internet connections has found that Ammon has the most-affordable connection in the United States — and one of the most affordable in the world. The finding comes from the annual Cost of Connectivity report, published by two researchers at the nonprofit Open Technology Institute. The report compared the cost of more than 700 internet plans available in 28 cities in the United States, Europe and Asia to evaluate how plans in the United States compared to other nations. Source: Post Register
  • The city of Idaho Falls is moving forward with plans to expand the intersection of 17th Street and Woodruff Avenue. The city council voted unanimously to approve buying the rights of way and easements on 16 parcels at the intersection. Ninety-three percent of the project’s cost will be covered by the Idaho Transportation Department, the rest by the city. Source: Post Register

Custer County

  • The city of Stanley saw a bustling Fourth of July weekend despite the rising number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Idaho and surrounding states. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, tourism and business activity has been on par with a normal summer. As visitors continue to flock to the small mountain resort town to relax and recreate, city leaders are faced with the challenge of keeping everybody — locals and visitors alike — healthy and safe. In response, the city of Stanley has passed a resolution encouraging people to wear face masks while in public. The resolution, which went into effect immediately, will expire Sept. 30. Source: Idaho Mountain Express

Lemhi County

  • Field work has started up again at the Beartrack-Arnett gold mine in Lemhi County. It is the largest past-producing gold mine in Idaho and hosts the second-largest deposit of gold in the state. Initial work is focusing on geological mapping, sampling and prospecting anomalies identified in previous geophysical and soil sampling programs. Revival Gold and its consultant, Wood plc, are on track with the assessment on the potential re-start of a phase 1 open-pit heap leach operation. The preliminary economic assessment for the project is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Source: Challis Messenger

Teton County

  • Driggs airport is building a campground at the airport for pilots who are passing through or need to stop on their way to the backcountry. Idaho’s backcountry airstrips are a well-known draw for recreational pilots. Many small airport operators like the city of Driggs are aware of this and work to provide services like camping, showers and sometimes even food. Driggs is not the first to build an airport campground. The city of Blackfoot completed its airport campground two years ago. The even better-known airport at West Yellowstone provides camping, complimentary firewood, loaner bicycles and a restaurant. The Driggs airport campground is expected to be completed this summer. Source: Idaho Business Review
  • The Driggs City Council approved the annexation of several parcels of isolated county land surrounded by city land near the schools. The land, totaling around 70 acres, will bring in an extra estimated $900 in property taxes, and if any of it is developed, the city will collect impact fees. Source: Teton Valley News

Openings

  • Sugared Moose Mini Donuts food truck in Idaho Falls
  • Garcia’s Street Tacos restaurant in Idaho Falls

Closures

  • Soda Tsunami in Idaho Falls
  • Mountain River Ranch in Ririe
  • Tropical Paradise food truck in Idaho Falls

Esther.Eke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 236-6710 ext. 4331